Mona retells W.E.B.

One of my favorite finds/follows during COVID-19 has been Mona Chalabi. You've probably seen quite a few of this British data journalist's infographics on Instagram in the past few months.



Like Giorgia Lupi of Pentagram, Chalabi hand-draws her work and addresses the human topics that big data skips over. She currently lives in New York and her exhibit at the House of Illustration in London closed just before COVID-19 hit the United States. For that project, she updated the hand-drawn infographics of renowned sociologist, writer, and activist W.E.B Du Bois.



Though reading "The Souls of Black Folk" and studying the ideological differences between W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington were required in high school, until recently, I had no idea that Du Bois was an information designer. As I was working on my thesis project on chronic illness last semester, I was looking for a visualization that could convey how time progresses but returns to the same patterns. I was looking for a spiral. A mentor pointed me to the "Du Bois spiral."



Du Bois uses this lengthy spiral as a way to visually emphasize a huge increase. There is much more red than any other color in the graphic above and the long curvilinear line can't even be compared to the short straight ones. In the spiral below to the left, Du Bois indicates a 6673.2% overall growth in household and kitchen furniture items owned by Black people in Georgia. In Chalabi's graphic to the right, she shows the vast difference in net worth between Black and White Americans, as well as other racial groups.



Though neither of the charts do this explicitly, I think the "Du Bois spiral" also functions in the way my understanding of a spiral does. Like the spiral, progress is not linear, we return back to the same coordinates while we grow outward. Even as Black folks gain wealth in America, their real social advancement is spiralic and inequitable. In this moment of uprising across the world, we come back to the same issues of the past. Du Bois and Washington's ideological divide about revolution versus reform is still salient, as are Du Bois' charts commemorated in the art book "Black Lives 1900."


#BlackLivesMatter #BlackLives1900 #WEBDubois #BookerTWashington #MonaChalabi #London #America #COVID19


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